EL PASO – In the coming months, downtown El Paso’s skyline will change dramatically as the City Hall building is expected to be demolished to make way for a new Triple-A ballpark that will open next year. But once demolition commences on City Hall and construction of the ballpark begins, the effects will be felt by downtown local businesses and streets that are adjacent to the City Hall area.
The Insights Museum on N. Santa Fe St. is just one of many businesses that has already been greatly affected by the major changes. The museum, which first opened in 1980, has cleared out and has been closed for several weeks now. It will be torn down along with City Hall in the next few months.
Tony DiMapoli, owner and operator of the Soho Cocktail Lounge on N. Oregon St., says the demolition of City Hall will have a definite impact on his business, which just celebrated its fifth anniversary on New Years Day. DiMapoli doesn’t know yet whether the demolition of the old city hall and construction of new ballpark will help or hurt his business.
“Well it could be 50/50. It could go both ways,” he said.
But it isn’t just the demolition aspect of City Hall that will have a ripple effect on businesses downtown. Unlike the fate of the Insights Museum, DiMapoli is optimistic about what the demolition and construction could bring to his business.
“I‘m hoping it helps me especially with the construction workers coming to have lunch here and having some cocktails after they get off from work,” DiMapoli said.
For the city of El Paso, the estimated total cost of relocating and demolishing City Hall is expected to be around $35 million. The construction of the new baseball stadium is expected to be around $50 million.
Controversy has also surrounded the decision to demolish and build a $50-million ballpark in its place. Opponents say that the decision should have been left up to El Paso voters to approve the stadium in this past November’s ballot. Opponents also accuse the city of misusing funds to finance the construction of the stadium.
Dr. James Holcomb, Associate Professor of Economics at UTEP, said that the expected changes at the City Hall site have a positive impact on Downtown El Paso.
“Obviously demolition and construction of a new ballpark is economic activity and means jobs at least in the short term for people working on the construction and demolition,” said Holcomb.
Holcomb also said that with the revitalization already taking shape in Downtown El Paso, the ballpark would give the area a bigger economic boost in terms of commercialization, and new retail growth.
“It should have a positive effect on the economy that means new jobs and new opportunities. So overall it should represent a positive impact on the community.”
Local businesses and shops will not be the only ones affected by the City Hall demolition and ballpark construction. Streets such as Durango Street that run along City Hall will also be greatly affected by the coming changes because of street closings and rerouted traffic flows.
For Sun Metro, changes and street closures mean adjustment. Laura Cruz-Acosta, public affairs coordinator for Sun Metro, points out that there will be adjustments to bus routes once certain streets like Durango and Missouri become inaccessible to traffic.
According to the El Paso department of transportation, it will take at least another two to three weeks before plans to close streets are finalized.
“We have plans in place once demolition has taken place. We’ve made improvements to the bus services in areas around El Paso where there has been construction and we plan on doing the same once certain streets become closed off due to construction in downtown,” said Cruz-Acosta.
Cruz-Acosta also pointed out that because construction plans have not yet been finalized, Sun Metro would wait for the demolition of City Hall to begin making improvements to its services by adjusting bus routes.
Journalists at the current El Paso Times site are also feeling the brunt of the planned demolition of City Hall. The building at W. Overland Ave., which has housed the El Paso Times since 1992, is currently undergoing major renovations to make way for City Council and its staff. Other city departments will be moving to other buildings in the downtown area over the next month.
Philip Cortez, Vice President of Marketing for the Texas/New Mexico Newspapers Partnership, knows that the El Paso Times journalists are in good hands in preparation for moving to their new site. “We’re retro-fitting another building downtown to house us,” said Cortez.
The new location of the El Paso Times will be in the Transtelco building at the corner of Overland and Paisano. The move to the new location is expected to be complete in late March.
For Cortez and staff, the prospect of moving is actually something they are looking forward to.
“We’re ready to go to a new place and start a new chapter in the paper’s history. We’re excited for it and this will be a good place,” Cortez said.
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